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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Back to basics

I want to thank everyone who responded to the sufganiyah (jelly donut) snap poll.  Voting was closed after 36 hours and the results were as follows:

Raspberry Jelly  21 votes (20%)
Strawberry Jelly  14 votes (13%)
Ribat Halav (Caramel) votes  24 (23%)
Chocolate  11 votes (10%)
Pineapple  0 votes (0%)
Vanilla Cream  5 votes (4%)
Custard  9 votes (8%)
'Pina Colada'  0 votes (0%)
Other (use comments to explain)  2 votes (1%)
Don't like Sufganiot  1 vote (0%)
Never had a Sufganiyah  16 votes (15%)

Total votes: 103

Now that the difficult decision about jelly donut preference has been sorted out, I'd like to ask your advice on a much more serious topic; latkes (potato pancakes).

Over the past few years I have been using my dad's recipe for latkes for our annual fifth night celebration.  However I have not been having good results... meaning the batter tends to fall apart in the hot olive oil.

The problem stems from the fact that my dad's recipe is not clearly defined and uses a lot of 'eye-balling' in terms of having the right proportion of potatoes, eggs, matzoh meal, etc.  So if you have a good, idiot-proof recipe you'd like to share (especially one where some or all of the preparation can be done in advance), the comments board is open.

For those of you who fall more into the latke consumer category (as opposed to latke maker), here is another pressing question that needs answering:


Posted by David Bogner on December 21, 2005 | Permalink


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I'm the first "other" in the latke poll. I know I'm wierd, but I use ketchup. (but not in the sufganiyot).

Posted by: AbbaGav | Dec 21, 2005 10:04:55 AM

I'm the Both...why is that EWWW???? I grew up that way and I'm not changing a thing :)

Posted by: Safranit | Dec 21, 2005 10:07:31 AM

Sorry... both is defintely my answer!! Yummy!!!! It is NOT ewww by any means. Ketchup sounds a little different than what I'm used to, salty instead of sweet... but I'm sure that's good too!

Posted by: nrg | Dec 21, 2005 10:44:06 AM

Folks, you should all note that this post confirms the theory of evolution! We are a "mixed" marriage -- Hungarian (his) and Bela Ruse (mine) -- and in previous years the voting might have read 1) Applesause (YUM!) 2) Sour Cream (EEW!) etc...

(I represent -- at the time of publishing this comment, anyways -- the one vote cast in favor of sour cream)

Posted by: zahava | Dec 21, 2005 11:37:28 AM

AbbaGav... No, that sort of makes sense. People put ketchup on french fries, so why not fried potato pancakes. This doesn't mean I'm going to follow your example... just that I don't find it weird.

Safranit... OK, so adding an editorial expression such as 'ewww' doesn't really preserve the scientific accuracy of the poll... but it was 6:15AM when I did the data entry for the question and I wasn't feeling very, well, scientific. :-) You're entitled to your opinion.

nrg... OK, so clearly I made a snap judgement about something I've always considered to be an either/or decision. Maybe I'll have to try one with 'both' this year.

Zahava... Now that I've discovered the 'shemenet shel pa'am', I have an added incentive to try it your way.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Dec 21, 2005 12:43:41 PM

Sugar is real good, so is ketchup

Posted by: Ed | Dec 21, 2005 1:49:19 PM

Do you shred or mush your potatoes? I do a mix of both, but with the shreds I put them in a sieve and run cold water over them and then let them drain. Put weight on them and paser towels if you need to absorb more water.

After I mix in the eggs, the finer potatotes and etc. I tip the bowl to the side and try to paper towel off as much exta liquid as I can. If it still is too loose I add a bit more binder, flour or meal.

Sorry...I do not use set measures either. Good Luck.

Love to Z and the kids.

Posted by: marjorie | Dec 21, 2005 2:30:50 PM

My latkes suck so I am not able to contribute and I eagerly await hearing the perfect recipe.
Shemenet shel paam would go well, that was my favorite. Did you know you can also get it in the States?

Posted by: Lisoosh | Dec 21, 2005 2:59:12 PM

I eat both on latkes....but not together!

Posted by: a.s.e | Dec 21, 2005 3:21:50 PM

I also like latkes made with shredded potatoes, rather than mushed. And apple sauce all the way! Who eats sour cream on latkes?

Posted by: Essie | Dec 21, 2005 3:41:00 PM

Actually apple sauce, but since I checked 'other': blueberry preserve and sugar.

You've probably heard that I belong to the "braille cooking" section, so I don't think I am of much help here.

Posted by: Account Deleted | Dec 21, 2005 4:12:03 PM

I don't put anything on them. If they are made correctly there is no need to spoil them.

Posted by: Jack | Dec 21, 2005 4:15:56 PM

If you give Jaime a latke she is going to want some chocolate to go with it. Which will remind her of Purim and how she misses those chocolate hamatashen ....


I love it with both! (applesauce and sour cream, of course)

Posted by: jaime | Dec 21, 2005 4:16:56 PM

b&c makes greaaaaat latkes. I will try to get her to comment. When we had more time and fewer kids we had an annual channuka party in which an Avogadro's number of latkes would be produced and consumed with both apple sauce and sour cream available for toppings. our non-Jewish friends would start clamoring for the party starting in Thanksgiving. maybe we should start that up again...

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Dec 21, 2005 4:22:21 PM

here is an odd one for the "other" category...
as a kid, it was either ketchup (just about everything gets ketchup on it in my family), or jelly. my dad is partial to orange marmalade. i like strawberry jelly. as i got older & celebrated hanukkah w/others, i was introduced to apple sauce & sour cream. however, i think i may stick to the jelly! (ok...i'll eat all these toppings...just not together!)

Posted by: kj | Dec 21, 2005 5:05:24 PM

I like Fox's U-Bet on mine. I saw the jar of Fox's U-Bet in the fridge, looked at my latkes, and did what any female would do: cover it with chocolate. It creeps out my parents, and my grandparents are probably rolling over in their grave. But hey, I like what I like.

Posted by: Shayna | Dec 21, 2005 5:26:29 PM

I assume you meant regular ones: If they are Sweet Potato Latkes, then Sour Cream or Maple Syrup.

Incensed that I missed the Sufganiya vote... oh well, my front-runner won anyway!

Posted by: PP | Dec 21, 2005 5:53:28 PM

I'm in the ketchup catergory too. Although sometimes I'll go for apple sauce or sour cream (but not all together).

I'm glad I can talk about latkes now, without inciting the wrath of David :).

Posted by: Geoff | Dec 21, 2005 6:28:58 PM

I like 'em with Ketchup. You know, like they're Maccabean Hash Browns.

Posted by: Evan | Dec 21, 2005 7:19:28 PM

I usually eat them with sour cream. I've tried apple sauce and couldn't understand the taste at all. I mean, potato and sweet apples???

Posted by: Irina | Dec 21, 2005 7:19:30 PM

With your latkes, try frying them in nut oil rather than olive oil (which probably contributes to the falling apart). Another reason for falling apart could be not having mixed the egg into the mixture enough. My mother, whose latkes were without compare,hand grated the potatoes and onions and then tied that mixture into a muslin bag to let the moisture drip from it for a couple of hours. The drained mixture would then be mixed with the beaten egg and made into latkes. The frying would only start when the pan of oil was hot enough to bubble up furiously when a drop of mixture was dropped into it. Towards the end of the frying process, my mother would lift out each latke, let the fat drip off it, and then plunge it back it. This gave it an extra exterior crispiness. And the fried latkes were covered in kitchen paper to soak off as much oil as possible. No commercially produced latke I have ever had even compares with it. So perfect that it would have been sacrilege to add anything to it.

Posted by: Judy | Dec 21, 2005 7:29:51 PM

Ed... Yup, both ketchup and sugar are both 'real good'. But I hope you aren't mixing them. That, by the way is the big problem with Israeli ketchup. It is loaded with sweetener. yuck! Give me Heinz every time!

Marjorie... I've been using a blender but I realize now that the latkes I enjoy the most are those that are from shredded potatoes. Thanks for the tips.

Lisoosh... You must live in a very Jewish area if you can get Shemenet shel Pa'am! :-)

a.s.e. ... Thanks, that makes sense. My editorial 'eewwwww' was about mixing them.

Essie... It seems like the shredded variety get crispier, no? And yes, I'm an apples sauce eater too.

mademoiselle a. ... I love blueberry! Maybe I'll try a taste of that this year. Thanks for the idea.

Jack... Unless you are letting them stay up late to watch TV or indulging their every whim at the mall, there is really no way to spoil them. :-)

Jaime... You may think you were kidding but read down the comments a bit and you'll see someone actually put U-Bets Chocolate syrup on them. Yikes!

Doctor Bean... Even if the house stinks like fried oil for a week, those Hanukkah get-together are so worth it.

kj... I wouldn't have thought of that if you and mademoiselle a. hadn't mentioned it. Now I can't stop thinking about it!

Shayna... Rolling over in their graves??? Fox's is fine in a nice egg cream or on ice cream... but for the type of sacrilege you've described one could wrap their grandparent's in copper wire and generate electricity from them spinning in their graves! :-)

PP... Sweet Potato Latkes? I've never even thought of that. I'm not a big sweet potato fan, but that sounds really interesting. Sorry you missed the sufganiyah poll. You you have to step lively around here! :-)

Geoff... There is a time and a place for everything. :-)

Evan... A lot more ketchup votes than I would have imagined. Like I said earlier, it makes sense from a french fries perspective... but still...

Irena... Your family must be from the same part of Eastern Europe as my wife's.

Judy... Thanks for the tips. I don't see myself doing the draining thing', but I will definitely make use of the other advice. By the way...doesn't the nut oil impart a nutty taste? Maybe I'll try canola oil.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Dec 21, 2005 10:14:00 PM

You're right - from the Ukraine (same area). ; )

Posted by: Irina | Dec 21, 2005 10:16:42 PM

I thought I'd be the first one to vote for ketchup! But I'll chime in anyway. Frankly, I never understood using sour cream or applesauce. Latkes with either one just sounds gross to me! Though I did have a childhood friend who liked to dip her potato chips in applesauce. EEEUUWWW!

Posted by: lori | Dec 21, 2005 11:27:59 PM

I'm an applesauce vote.... but Apple Butter is good too

Posted by: Oceanguy | Dec 22, 2005 1:11:44 AM

I usually have many different toppings for the latkes - jelly, sugar, applesauce, sour cream, Russian dressing, guacamole - though not all together! I generally prefer the sweet potato to the regular; this year I will be trying new recipes for cajun sweet potato latkes and guacamole latkes...I'll let you know if they are worth sending on...

Posted by: mcaryeh | Dec 22, 2005 2:29:18 AM

I stand guilty as charged: vagueness of recipe quantities in the prep. of potato latkes. So, what' so bad? The only vagueness comes in the amount held by a regular Oster blender "bowl". I'd estimate about a uart, but I'm not sure that it's really critical. Here is how it works--and please note that the batter cannot be prepared too far in advance because the grated potatoes in it turn brown and ultimately black in 30 - 40 minutes. Besty to make it and use it (or lose it).
To feed (or disable) 6 adults, peel and grate 6-8 medium white potatoes (such as, baking or mashing potatoes). Since I do the lazy-mn's grating in the blender, I cut the potatoes into smallish chunks (yeah, that's sort of vague) and store in a bowl of cold water until actually put into the blender.
Have a box of matzoh meal on hand, in orderto put 1/2 cup of meal into each blender full of latke batter. Also on hand: salat, pepper, and egggs (one per blender full of batter). Also, peel and thickly slice 3 or 4 onions (whiteor yellow onions will do, and try to yield about 3-4 cups of sliced onions. I cook in extra-virgin olive oil, but any vegetable oil will do. I usetwo large cast iron frying pans, but again use your favorite weapon.
Begin heating your frying pans with a generous covering of oil in each (about 1/4" or so).
Have a large bowl handy to receive the batter and begin making the first batch: Into the blender put one egg (lage, extra large, or jumbo--I like jumbo). Add a small handful of onions, cover blender and blend on medium for 5-10 seconds or until those first ingredients are pulverized/blended. Add another handful of onions and blend. (NOTE: you are building up a mostly liquidified batter prior to adding the potatoes.)
Add a handfull of potato pieces and blend. If you have trouble blending them, cut pieces into smaller bits. Add another handful and blend. When the blendr bowl is about half full, add another handful of onions and 1/2 cup matzoh meal, 1 tsp salt, and 2-3 tsp pepper, and blend. Add more potatoes and blend until blenderbowl is 3/4 ful. Be sure the batter is free of largelumps and pour into large bowl.
When frying pan oil is sizzling hot (drops of water disappear with a hiss when dorpped in), spoon or ladle in batter. I use about 1/4 cup or slightly less batter for each latke, but some like them even smaller for easier handling.
Move oil in pan to get it all around each latke. DON'TY TRY TO MOVE LATKE UNTIL IT HAS SOLIDIFIED, when edges begin to brown. When edges are crispy and dark, turn carefully with spatula,being carefull to put it down onto fresh, hot oil. Continue frying 3-5 minutes or until thoroughly crisp.
NOTE: thinner latkes are better, as they cook through and crisp faster and moe thoroughly. Partially cooked latkes can be devastating later!
Turn out finished latkes on paper towl-lined plattter,and place paper towels between each layer of new latkes.
Serve hot. It has always been my assumption that the applesauce is all that saves the eaterfrom indigestion. And it tastsvery good. But each person names his own poison, I guess.
Enjoy!! Happy Channukah!
(Please excuse tyupos; I hve not been able to proof this.)

Posted by: Delmar Bogner | Dec 22, 2005 3:49:19 AM

I work for a caterer, and we are doing a bunch of weddings this week with "latke stations" We make the batter ahead of time then use a griddle to fry them right at the shmorg! The secret is (and once I say this it will be secret no more) we use our plain old potato kugel recipe!
Hatzlacha finding a recipe that works for you!

Posted by: faye | Dec 22, 2005 5:42:03 AM

Latkes are a snap, but there are a few rules.

Use one good-size russet potato (baking potatoes, AKA Idaho potatoes here) per person, and one large yellow onion per four potatoes.

Chop the onions and coarsely grate the 'taters - for grating, a food processor works well - use the shredder disc. A box grater is fine if you don't have a food processor. Grating your potatoes in a blender is a sin against haShem and you will be called to account for it in Olam ha-Ba.

Drain the grated potatoes well. Mix the chopped onion in thoroughly. Add eggs - one egg for every three potatoes is about right - and mix thoroughly. Then add matzoh meal sufficient to soak up the excess moisture. The mixture should be firm and not too wet. Season with salt and pepper to taste - if you're adventurous, throw in some chopped garlic. I tend to use plenty of pepper.

Using a skillet, fry the latkes in hot peanut oil - peanut oil has a nice, high smoke point, so you can get it plenty hot - until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and serve them forth while they're hot, hot, hot!

Serve with sour cream and applesauce. I actually like both, and I sometimes put them both on the latkes at the same time. Other condiments such as cranberry sauce (might be hard to get in Eretz Yisrael) or mango chutney are tasty but decidedly nontraditional.

Posted by: Elisson | Dec 22, 2005 6:58:46 AM

We like sugar on my latkes with homemade applesauce on the side.

Posted by: Margaret | Dec 22, 2005 9:02:03 AM

Irina... I thought so... explains a lot. ;->

Lori... This poll has been quite a learning experience for me. It honestly never occurred to me that ketchup was a viable option for latkes, but clearly there's a whole world out there with which I am unacquainted! I've also learned that we each have different things that trigger our 'ewwww' reflex. :-)

Ocean Guy... Apple butter... nice, I hadn't thought of that! I'll have to see if I can find some.

Mcaryeh..."...Russian dressing, guacamole ..." Yikes. With Russian dressing you get ketchup Mayo (among other things)... and with guacamole avocado and lemon juice enter the equation. I'm impressed!

Dad... Thanks for the rehash (pun intended) of your tested method. Like your recipe for Fried breaded fish fillets, it doesn't come out right unless you are standing with your hand on the skillet. Just as there are just some people around which electronics and mechanical things just work better... you are one of those people around which a cast iron skillet and oil become paint and canvas. There's also the little issue (raised by another commenter) that you and I will be sharing bunk beds in hell for using a blender to shred potatoes. :-)

Faye... Unfortunately, I don't have a good kugel recipe either. :-(

Elisson... Thanks a bunch. Thanks to the portion of your comment in bold type I just got finished cleaning coffee off my keyboard, and I'm left with little brown dots all over the thighs of my khakis. I appreciate the recipe though... I knew if I waited long enough SOMEONE would step up and actually give me a clue. :-)

Margaret... After some of the comments here nothing will surprise me, but isn't putting sugar on latkes pushing them off of the main course section of the menu and over towards dessert? I mean, why stop there? You could put sugar on top and then hit them with a blow torch before serving for Latke Brûlée! :-)

Posted by: treppenwitz | Dec 22, 2005 9:09:58 AM

I follow the recipe found in the Lubavitch Cookbook (old version).

Five potatoes, one onion, 1/3 cup of matzo meal, 1 teaspoon of salt, pepper to taste. Shred potatoes and onions in food processor, drain in colander for a few minutes and squeeze briefly, mix with matzo meal, salt and pepper, fry.

Posted by: westbankmama | Dec 22, 2005 1:54:01 PM

Okay - I selected other, because I don't make my latkes out of potatoes - I make them out of sweet potatoes, and a sort of indian-curry type flavoring (cumin, turmeric, allspice, ginger) and then I make a spicy yoghurt sauce (plain yoghurt and a little chili/tabasco sauce). Its Jewish noveau cuisine!!
As for shamenet shel pa'am - I finally sampled it on something I do like - Mexican food, and that stuff is incredible!!! I love it!!! Thanks for bringing it into my life.

Posted by: Noa | Dec 22, 2005 3:03:04 PM

You fry your latkes in oil? I "dry fry" them with just a little bit of butter directly on the stovetop when I have a woodburning stove, and in a cast iron griddle only lightly coated with butter (never oil!) to prevent sticking. And as previous commenters have said - shredded potatoes and onions, rinsed in cold water then well dried before adding eggs, seasonings (pepper, salt, parsley, ground celery seed, and chives). Only a dash of matzoh meal or flour is used - no more than a teaspoonful for every 2 eggs used in hte mixture.

Posted by: Noddy | Dec 22, 2005 5:32:32 PM

This is so wrong, latkes are the best thing in the world, right along w sushi, they are to be eaten in all their latkesy glory, why ruin mana w apple sauce?? Latkes... *salivates* With smoked salmon maybe, and a sauce made of white raddish, I used to have that for lunch, it was fabulous... Now am hungry and staring my cooking skills in the face. Blah.

Posted by: Lioness | Dec 22, 2005 6:08:09 PM

Westbankmama... Hmmm, maybe you're right... it's time to go back to basics.

Noa... I'm much to conservative for that kind of cra... er, I mean stuff. You and my wife can do an evening of inedible arty food some time when I'm away, mmmkay?

noddy... If they're not swimming in oil it isn't Hanukkah! :-)

Lioness... Are you saying that you don't smother your sushi in soy sauce and wasabi? I'm convinced my wife only eats sushi as a vehicle for the condiments! :-)

Posted by: treppenwitz | Dec 23, 2005 2:34:46 PM

The kugel recipe we use calls for 50# of potatoes at once, not something you want to try at home I am thinking. Sorry....

Posted by: Faye | Dec 23, 2005 9:41:19 PM

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